Vintage Recap: Sadhu Sundar Singh

It’s officially spring in Charlottesville, and the Bonhoeffer House celebrated the new season with angel food cake and a fascinating discussion. Today’s Vintage was focused on the vintage Christian, Sadhu Sundar Singh—the “St. Paul of India.” Sundar Singh was born in 1889 and grew up to be a pious child. When Singh was only 14, his mother died. Feelings of grief led to deep anger toward God, and he began to publicly burn the Bibles of Christian missionaries. Sundar Singh’s despair was so great that he challenged God by deciding he would commit suicide unless God revealed himself to him over three days and nights. Singh did, in fact, encounter God. According to him, Jesus appeared and said, “How long are you going to persecute me? I died for you. For you I have my life. You were praying to know the right way; why don’t you take it? I am the Way.” This event was life-changing, and Sundar Singh was quickly baptized at age 16. Despite being denounced by his father and almost poisoned by his brother for his new faith, Singh lived a life devoted to Jesus. He believed that Christianity could penetrate India only through an Indian way, so he wore a turban and the yellow robe of a Hindu sadhu. Singh spend much of his life travelling extensively and ministering to others. He is believed to have died in 1933 on a journey to Tibet.

Students were moved by Singh’s account of the time he felt compelled by God to travel to a neighboring village and tell them about his experience with Christ. Singh had been suffering from a physical illness. His body was telling him to stay behind, but his soul compelled him to go despite the pain. Eventually, he overcame and dragged his sick body to tell the people what Christ had done for him. The people were aware of Singh’s illness and were moved by this display of perseverance. Though Singh was unable to explain all that Christ’s presence had done for him, his actions spoke louder than his words. Sundar Singh wrote that, “where the tongue is lacking, life, through action, reveals reality.” Ironically, it was Singh’s weakness that was most powerful for the people. Students admired how Singh refused to give up and feel useless. Instead, he allowed God to use him in the midst of weakness and illness.

Today at Vintage, we also read an exercpt by Sundar Singh on desire and thirst. Instead of eliminating desire and “the deep longing in our soul,” Singh believes these feelings should be seen as “a clear sign of hope that spiritual peace exists.” He writes: “To drive out thirst without quenching it with life-sustaining water is to drive out life itself. The result is death, not salvation.” This passage resonated with many students. It is often easy to bury these feelings of longing and thirst for spiritual peace. Yet Singh reminds us that these feelings are valuable, and they remind us of the truth that there is someone who can and will satisfy our thirsty souls.

-Caroline Parsley, UVa '2014

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